Its easy as a small business owner to “leave well-enough alone” especially for tasks that may be a bit outside of your normal comfort zone. So, it’s no a surprise that a lot of businesses get a website online, then simply leave it there without spending much more time on it once it looks good.
However, by doing this, you’re missing out on a lot from a marketing perspective. This is one of those areas where a little bit of time, consistently over an extended period, will get your huge results in the long term. You need to update your site content regularly.
Why update your site?
If everything is working well, and people generally like your site, why would you bother making changes to it? There are largely two reasons: Most search engines (notably Google) rank sites higher that regularly receive updates, and it also gives off the impression of a more “lively” business to customers or potential customers who spend time on your pages.
Google introduced the term “Query Deserves Freshness” (QDF) in an update almost 10 years ago. The basic concept was that they wanted to serve up both “evergreen” content that performed well, as well at increasing the ranking of content that was increasing in popularity (or trending). A part of this included increasing the overall search ranking for sites that update their content frequently. Early versions of this algorithm could be tricked by simply updating the date on the post, but since then Google’s algorithms have gotten much more advanced at actually determining if you are updating your content, and rewarding you for it.
The more frequently you update your website, the higher Google will rank your page.
While there is a limit to how much frequently updating your site can do for you in terms of increasing your search engine ranking, that’s a pretty high bar that you, as a small business owner, probably will not hit. So, for you: The sky is the limit. The more you spend time on your site adding, and updating content, the more Google will reward you with a better place in your search results.
There are a few small caveats to this: You must have updates that are at least interesting. You can either update existing pages and information on your site, or add new pages (think of something like a blog) but it must at least be somewhat interesting to users. You can’t throw random information that is poorly written and expect it to help. Google watches how long users stay on your page after clicking it, and how if they are “satisfied” by what they find (if they hit back and find another page quickly, Google will know the user didn’t like your page). If you have very poorly written content and users respond by not reading it for long, Google won’t really reward you. But I’ll tell you: It’s a pretty low bar. The content can be pretty short or quickly written as long as its not complete trash.
If a potential (or current) customer comes to your website looking for information about your business, and it doesn’t look like the site has been updated in a long time, it might turn them off to your business. Consumers can tell, even if its subtle things, if you are maintaining your web presences. A company that has old, outdated content will come across as not careful, not sleek, not up-to-date. Is that how you want your customers to think of you?
On top of that, customers may come to your site looking for your response to a recent news article or issue related to your business, or be looking for updated hours (“Are their hours the same in winter as in summer?”) or other “timely” things. If they spend the time looking up your site, and they don’t find the information they are looking for, it could result in a lost sale for your company (and an unhappy consumer).
How often to update your sites?
So if you’re convinced that you should be updating your site, the question now is, “How often?” While more is probably the most accurate answer for all businesses, you should be shooting for a minimum of 2-3 times a month. If you’re looking mainly for local customers and local traffic, 2-3 times a month will be sufficient to keep your website ranking for local searchers, and keep the experience positive for viewers of your site.
If you’re trying to compete on a national level in a more competitive space, you should consider budgeting the time for updates 1-2 times per week (or more, if you can afford it). It’s easy to get excited about updates, pound out 2-3 a week for a month or two, than forget about it. Instead, it would be better to pace yourself. Depending on what platform you use for managing your website, you may be able to queue up updates in advance, so if you’re feeling motivated, you can get two or three articles written at a time, then schedule them so they come out more slowly.
The biggest thing is to keep it up. Any goal of modifying your search-ranking and increasing in the search results page is not going to be realized in a few weeks. Changing how you rank with Google or other search engines takes time. Even with consistent 1-2 times per week updates, you shouldn’t expect to see results before about the 2-3 month mark. However, the gains you make will be hard for your competitors to take away. If you can plan your time so that updates to your site keep coming out with regularity, you will soon be in the first few results on Google and no one will be able to take it away.
What to update on your site?
Blogs are a great way to provide regular updates to your site without worrying about negatively impacting pages and things that already rank well. While you might not have to call it a blog (“news”, “latest updates”, “what’s happening”, etc.) the idea of simply adding on content regularly based on what’s going on with your business, or your customers, is always a great idea.
Things to be careful of when updating
Whenever you are doing major changes to your site, be careful when adjusting pages that get a lot of inbound traffic. Not to say you shouldn’t update them, but be more cautious. You can screw up the the things that people are actually looking for, and that will result in a major drop in rankings. If you have Google analytics installed on your site, you can take a look at the organic traffic to that page to figure out what terms people are searching for to get to that page— be careful not to change it to remove many of these terms.